The psychological gap between working in a cafe because it's fun and romantic and doing the exact same thing because you have to is enormous. Within weeks, Lily and I—previously ensconced in an enviably stress-free marriage—were at each other's throats. I hesitate to say which was worse: working the same shift or alternating. Each option presented its own small tortures. Two highly educated professionals with artistic aspirations have just put themselves—or, as we saw it, each other—on $8-per-hour jobs slinging coffee. After four more months, we grew suspicious of each other's motives, obsessively kept track of each other's contributions to the cause ("You worked three days last week!"), and generally waltzed on the edge of divorce. The marriage appears to have been saved by a well-timed bankruptcy.Many years ago, in the 1970s, when I was married, R and I seriously considered opening a small bookstore, which we envisioned in romantic terms. Nevertheless, I got a book from the library about starting a small business. It had a chapter "Would You Hire Yourself?" that doggedly pressured you to seriously consider whether you would hire yourself to run this business you've got in mind. My reaction to that chapter was very much like my reaction to the lecture I received, around the same time, from a young woman at the SPCA, where I'd gone to adopt a dog. Suffice it to say, I've never owned a bookstore or a dog. I'm capable of having romantic visions of myself engaged in some activity in the future, but I'm at least as good at picturing myself in the negative variation. I can see the nightmare that cancels the dream.
December 30, 2005